Blackberry - "Rubus fruticosus"


Foraging and identification of Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

Edible plant - novice Season - spring - autumn Common names Blacberry, Bramble, Shrubby Blackberry, Brambleberry, English Blackberry, Bumblekites


Scientific name meaning: Rubus is from the Latin for red - Rubra. Fruticosus is also Latin in origin, from Fruticis, meaning bushy or shruby. The reason the species name is in quotation marks is because it is an aggregate name. There are over 300 microspecies of Blackberry that are known of in the British Isles

Habitat

Blackberry is a very successful plant found in lots of places, including gardens, waste ground, woodland, hedgerows, roadsides and parks. Its seed is distributed in the droppings of birds and mammals.

Overall structure

Blackberry presents as a mass of twisted, long and prickled branches. It is a scrambler rather than a climber.

Leaves

There are two types of leaves present. Trifoliate leaves, comprising three leaflets, and palmately compound leaves where five leaflets radiate out from a central point like the palm of a hand.

Stem

The stem is green when young, taking on red tones with age. It is covered in prickles, contains a pith core and is five-sided. This can be viewed as a pentagon via a transverse cross section.

Flower

The flowers appear from late spring through summer, and sometimes into autumn. They have five petals, visible reproductive parts, and can be white through to pink

Fruit

The multi-segmented (or aggregate) fruits appear in summer through to autumn. They are formed of lots of individual spherical fruits, or duplets, and mature green, then red, and finally a deep purple-black.

Possible lookalikes

Cloudberries, Dewberries, Raspberry (pictured) oganberry and various other Rubus species could all be confused with Blackberry. However, none has palmate leaves and all are edible.

Before flowering, Blackberry could also be confused with scrambling rose species. However, these also do not have palmate leaves and produce hips rather than soft berry fruits


Use as a food The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and can be made into jams, jellies, syrups, vinegars, wines, liquours, pies, chutneys, cordials, fruit leathers, and puddings.

The young leaves can be dried and made into a herbal infusion, while young shoots can be eaten raw. ​ Hazards Some people experience stomach upsets if they consume unripe fruit


Use in herbal medicine and medicine Blackberry has been used to treat digestive and urinary tract disorders, sore throats, mouth ulcers, oral thrush, haemorrhoids, and wounds. If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner Other uses A blue dye can be made from the fruit, while a cordage can be made from the stem fibre ​ Importance to other species The flowers are important to pollinators, and the fruit is a food source for birds. The structure of the plant provides shelter for nesting birds, and for mammals. Of note is its use by hedgehogs to protect them while they hibernate.

Blackberry is also very important in the growth of trees. Its prickly stems protect young saplings from grazing mammals. There is an old forester's saying: "The thorn is the cradle of the Oak".


Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!